Iran presents opportunities for the Jumeirah Group as a source of customers for its existing hotels and a possible future hotel location, its president and group chief executive officer Gerald Lawless says.

“The Jumeirah Group has ambitious expansion plans,” Lawless says in a statement to MEED. “The company has a robust pipeline of new hotels and is exploring? future opportunities, not only in the Middle East, but also in Asia, Europe and Africa. While we do not currently have any hotel management agreements in Iran, the country represents an important source market for our hotels and a potential location for a future hotel, either under the luxury Jumeirah brand or our new contemporary lifestyle brand Venu.”

The portfolio of the Dubai-based luxury hotel company, part of Dubai Holding, encompasses 23 hotels including the Burj sl-Arab Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah and Jumeirah Emirates Towers. It reported a 5.2 per cent increase in revenues in 2014. Occupancy across its hotels was 84.6 per cent in the first four months of 2015. The group employs 14,000 people.

Iran’s hotel and hospitality sector is expected to be one of the principal early beneficiaries of the end of nuclear-related sanctions, which could come by the end of 2015. Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism & Handicrafts Organisation (CHTHO) director Massud Soltanifar said in August that about 5.1 million tourists visited the Islamic republic in the previous five months compared with 4 million in the whole of 2013. He said plans call for the number to rise to 20 million.

The CHTO says Iran has more than 1,100 hotels, but only 130 of them are three and four star. It plans to build 400 3-4 star hotels in the next 10 years. No international hospitality brand operates hotels in Iran.